We have started trying to teach the Navigator some rudimentary money skills. It is a little tough because we do almost all of our transactions electronically, so the exchange of funds for goods is abstract.
The things he has wanted to buy have been electronic – computer games and related items – which meant he needed my credit card to complete a transaction, thereby making my drawing from his accumulated allowance even more abstract.
It was hard to be sure he was understanding how to decide how he wanted to spend his limited resources and not just buying because he could.
Then I hit on the bright idea to set up a Paypal account for him – I could fill it with his monthly allowance and he could draw on it on his own, thus putting the analysis of whether he wanted to afford something in his court, rather than me being the gatekeeper.
What gets transferred to his Paypal account is only a portion of his monthly allowance – for years we have divided it into savings, spending, and charity and at the end of each year I ask him where he would like to donate the charity portion.
As a rule, he has selected an animal-related charity each year, supporting pandas and sea creatures among others.
Until this year.
“I want to help children get enough to eat,” he told me when I asked.
Covering my surprise, I asked him if he wanted to help children in another country, in the U.S., in our town, or at his school.
“My school?” he asked, looking puzzled. Once I explained that there could be kids who could not pay for their lunches, he immediately opted for that. We dropped off the small amount he had saved to the school office, which was gratefully received, and he was happy.
He was very happy. In fact, it was the first time he seemed to really connect with and enjoying the feeling of giving.
A couple of weeks later, he received as a gift a giant box of his favorite cookies. Eating them alone, they could have lasted him for weeks.
But he decided he wanted to share them with his extended family.
I recognized that there was a bit of a selfish motive for him – if he put a bunch of cookies on a plate each day for others to eat, he could freely eat them, too.
He could have dug in with me and tried to get cookies for himself without sharing them, battling each day to have them when he wanted them – a tactic he would have used in the past.
Instead he opted to share which meant he gave away more cookies than he could have kept for himself if he had not shared.
Which means it was an act of altruism
altruism is the desire to enhance the welfare of others at a net welfare loss to oneself
He has learned the lesson that giving to others can be a pleasure, and it is a pleasure to see.